Category Archives: Material and Tool Information

Information about mosaic materials and tools.

Crucifix Installed in Niche in Altarpiece by artist Nicholas Vasko

Imitation Gold Glass for Altarpieces and Icons

Religious icons make heavy use of gold leaf glass to represent halos and divine light but also to adorn the figures and to communicate the preciousness of the image. Of course we carry 24 kt Gold Leaf Glass for use in icons and other mosaics, but the material is expensive for obvious reasons, and so the question becomes what do you use when you need to make something larger, such as an altarpiece or a life-size icon?

The answer is the silver-foil glass product known as Imitation Gold Mosaic Glass, which has an epoxy coating over the silver backing to prevent oxidation and blackening by adhesives.

Artist Nicholas Vasco emailed us some pictures of a couple of his recent projects using Imitation Gold Glass, and they are impressive. Both the altarpiece and the mosaic inserts of the chapel entrance way are very well done and worth talking about for several reasons.

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Pelicans mosaic by artists Carl and Sandra Bryant.

Alternatives to Marble Mosaic

Many people are drawn to the idea of making mosaics from marble and stone, mostly because that was the material used by the ancient Romans but also because they would like to make a mosaic from natural materials in subdued colors.

Nevertheless, as soon as these people start trying to source materials, they quickly become frustrated with how limited the color palette is in marble mosaic, and they usually end up mixing the stone with smalti or ceramic or porcelain tiles, or they use dyed stone or synthetic stone for certain colors.

In either case, the mosaic usually doesn’t have the look and feel that was desired, which is really a tragedy because superior results could have been more easily and cheaply accomplished had the artist used all glass and merely restricted the color palette to more subtle hues.

Before you convince yourself you need to work in stone, spend some time looking at glass mosaics made from subdued color pallets.

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Garden Retaining Wall

Mosaic Mural Surface Preparation

The best way to mount an outdoor mosaic mural is to use thinset mortar and mount it directly to a brick, stone, or concrete wall.

You can make mosaic murals on foam-core backer board and mount these backers onto wooden fences with screws, but that is less than ideal for several reasons, and the weight could cause the fence to lean if its posts aren’t securely anchored. That is why we recommend mounting mosaics directly on masonry surfaces (brick, stone, or concrete).

Masonry surfaces need to be cleaned and possibly smoothed before the mosaic is mounted, but that isn’t too difficult, and it is well worth doing if you want the mosaic to last any time at all. Continue reading

Mosaic Street Number

Mosaic Street Number

Natalija decided to test some materials and methods by putting our street number on the loading dock of the warehouse. Her method was to lay 3/4-inch vitreous tile in a mounting grid, but she put them in upside down and laid a sheet of fiberglass mesh on them and used one drop of silicone adhesive on each tile to attach the mesh. My method would be to lay the tiles in the grid right side up and pick up the design with mosaic mounting tape. Continue reading

Second Layer of Mesh

Making Foam-Core Mosaic Backers For Outdoor Projects

Artist Jill Gatwood uses the following method to make water-resistant foam-core mosaic backers for exterior mosaics, such as the Pet Memorial Name Plaques she does for clients who need something that is lighter weight and easier to ship than stone or solid concrete. The method wraps the foam in three or four successive layers of fiberglass mesh and thinset mortar, and that coating is pretty tough, tougher than stone. (The combination of polymer-modified cement and fiberglass can withstand blows that would easily crack granite of the same thickness.) Continue reading

Mosaic Mailbox Jill Gatwood

Mosaics on Steel Mailbox Using Silicone Adhesive

Artist Jill Gatwood has emailed me her procedure for using GE Silicone II to mount mosaic tile to steel mailboxes, and it is outlined below.

Jill’s instructions have convinced me that there are enough mosaic applications for silicone adhesive that we should sell it. Note that we still recommend thinset mortar or Weldbond for mosaics on architectural surfaces such as backsplashes, but for projects such as mosaic  mailboxes or glass-on-glass mosaics, silicone adhesive is preferred.

Jill’s steel mailbox instructions are fairly complete and include recommendations for purchasing the right type of mailbox for the project and modifying it as needed.

Steel Mailbox Instructions

1. Selecting The Mailbox

Jill says that a steel mailbox from the big box home improvement stores or a hardware store will work but you have to check it and make sure the metal is strong and doesn’t flex. (In practical terms, this means you should buy the mid-grade or premium model and not the one made for the bottom of the market.)

Jill recommends getting one that has ribs to strengthen the frame if you need an XL size mailbox. Continue reading

Prying Tile From Finished Mosaic

How To Pry Up Tiles To Modify A Mosaic

I have often used a small screwdriver to pry up tiles when I wanted to change some detail in a mosaic, but in all of those cases, the mosaic had a grout gap, and it was possible to knock an individual tile out or shatter it without damaging its neighbors, at least most of the time.

But what if you can’t afford to damage surrounding tiles or you have a mosaic with no grout gap? Is it even possible to get tiles up? The answer is yes, and the method involves a wet cotton swab, a dental pick, and a sharpened chopstick.

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Mosaic Picture Frame Iso View

Mosaic Picture Frame

Angela made a mosaic picture frame using our irregular glazed ceramic tile and left the sides of the frame uncovered. She also nested the angular shapes to created an abstract pattern without cutting any of the tiles to make them fit.

The unfinished side edges of Angela’s mosaic look particularly neat because the sides of the ceramic tile is straight and not beveled like the sides of vitreous glass mosaic tile, which could still be used if you didn’t mind an edge that was a little rougher. Continue reading

Mosaic Christmas Ornaments by Phyllis Kempter

How To Efficiently Make Mosaic Christmas Ornaments

Artist Phyllis Kempter emailed me some photos of the ornaments she made using our kits for 3-inch spherical mosaic Christmas ornaments and our 12mm recycled glass tile (plus a few other sizes of tile), and her ornaments caught my eye for two reasons:

First, she used green in the patterns for her ornaments, which is good to do if you think the ornament might by hung on something other than a Christmas tree, at least some of the time. Green might not help the ornament stand out on the tree as well as red would, but it goes a long way toward suggesting Christmas when the ornament is not on a tree, especially when used with red.

Second, one of her photos was of her well-organized work space, and it illustrates several methods and tips for making the tiling process easier and faster. Continue reading

Mosaic Mirror Oxidation Detail

Mirror Mosaic Warning

Silver-backed mirror must be glued down using a special mirror adhesive; otherwise the reflective silver will oxidize and turn black. Mirror tile is a different situation.

Mirror Vs Mirror Tile

Note that this warning is about pieces of broken mirror being used as tile. Mirror tiles such as the colored glass mirror tile we sell have a special epoxy coating over the silver to protect it from adhesives. In that case, you can use Weldbond and do not have to worry. Continue reading